The Crows sit 11th on the AFL ladder but were impressive during last week’s victory over West Coast, turning the game with six straight fourth-quarter goals.
Rory Sloane, Rory Laird and Luke Brown all returned to face the Eagles while Tom Lynch will line up against the ladder-leading Tigers at the MCG on Friday night.
And while last year’s grand final victory over Adelaide remains the one that really matters, Hardwick hasn’t forgotten his side’s 36-point capitulation to the Crows in round two.
The Crows were dominant around the ball when the two sides met at Adelaide Oval and Josh Jenkins booted five goals matched up on Alex Rance.
“People have been dropping off them but the reality is they’ve got some really good players coming back into the side the last two weeks,” Hardwick said on Thursday.
“The side that we played in round two is pretty much the side we’ll be playing this week as well.
“They gave us a real touch-up around the contested ball. Their games are always highly contested, that’s the way they play and we’re looking to embrace that and challenge ourselves a little bit more in that part of the game.”
The Tigers will be without Nick Vlastuin (suspended) and Reece Conca (ankle) but despite having several sore players, Hardwick is confident they will be the only forced changes.
Sam Lloyd, Connor Menadue and Shai Bolton are among the potential replacements while Bachar Houli (groin) will be sidelined for another week.
Richmond are gunning for a record-equalling 17th straight win at the MCG while victory for Adelaide would be a major boost for their finals hopes.
Hardwick was hopeful the recent return from injury of tough midfielder Dion Prestia would allow superstar Dustin Martin to spend more time up forward.
“He’s played more in the heart of the game where we probably don’t get the value that we do when he splits that time up forward and through the middle,” Hardwick said.
“Because his role changed, it probably hasn’t lent itself to the season he had last year but he’ll certainly come back over the back end of the season this year.”
Crows coach Don Pyke confirmed today that Lynch would return to the side, with the full team to be revealed tonight.
– with AAP
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